Off the wall?

August 11, 2003

(feedback from the series on Christian hope in an age of Pax Americana).

If you have felt I’m a little off the wall in the perspectives expressed over the past few weeks concerning Pax Americana, you’re probably not alone.

Not that I’ve heard that directly from anyone. Almost all the feedback has been fairly positive. Early in the series someone expressed the hope that I would give the view from Mars as well as from Venus. I did try to explain why Americans saw things a certain way (the Mars view), the Europeans (Venus) otherwise. But what was more important for me was to transcend both to attempt a possible “Kingdom” perspective.

Come to think of it, most of the responses were from Americans. Stuff like:

> “Just to say I am really enjoying reading your articles and forwarding them to some of my American friends (I’m an American also)… Some are questioning what all your writing has to do with the relevance of the gospel but I feel you are helping us to see the present day context especially for us Americans and how we need to be careful of shrouding our gospel in a flag. I am blessed‚Ķ..keep it up.”

> “Thanks for the thought-provoking stuff I’ve been getting from you, Jeff.”

> “Thank you, Jeff for addressing and tackling issues most of us are afraid to think of. You broaden our scope. We need it. Jesus is not coloquial or closed minded, he is global (rather even “universal” or “of the Kingdom”, ETERNAL – much BIGGER than we are thinking!) I shall be eternally grateful that you are taking us out of our “box” and expanding our vision. – an american, Janet.

> “One item: (my wife) and I saw ‘Bowling for Columbine’ in a theater here (an art house, not mainstream). We enjoyed it as entertainment…, but understand, there’s been quite a lot of controversy here about whether it actually qualified as a ‘documentary’, let alone an Oscar in that category. You might want to read:”

> “Your critique of America by “the rest of the world” is obviously quite different from what one gets here in the USA. I found it sobering and humbling. Tell me…….am I being duped by my American govt., media, etc? Also, you mentioned that often perception becomes reality for people. Does that mean that the “reality” (perceived) also becomes truth (what really is)? What really is true–is America the next great infidel or not?
“In the midst of whatever misintentions or wrong motives there may be by the US govt. God is on the move. A friend of mine, who is a Believer, is presently in Baghdad serving God and country (in that order). He is a Chaplain in the US Army. His recent letter to me talks of how he is meeting Iraqi citizens daily who not only are grateful for his being there but are interested in the way he lives his life. He regularly works side by side with Iraqis and he helps Iraqis secure essentials (water, food, medicines, etc). As they work and fellowship (through translators) the question comes up: “Why did you join the military?” He tells them that he became a Chaplain so that he could encourage his fellow US soldiers and that he could help others wherever the US govt. (controlled by God–because God is sovereign) might send him. They see his life and actions and they are drawn to ask about his faith in God. PLEASE: Don’t lump him, and potentially thousands of others like him, in with your critique of America and its supposed infidelistic, colonialistic, and big-bullyistic role in Iraq and its war on terrorism. That would be a disservice to him and to what God is doing through him. He is bringing hope (God’s) to Baghdad, one person at a time. I eagerly await your next edition of this powerful, controversial discussion.”

[‘My’ critique? I used these categories to summarise opinions from around the world, not to express a personal opinion. I was trying to say why people are upset, what perceptions people have of America. Of course, the way people perceive reality is not necessarily objective truth, but becomes the ‘truth’ on which they base their behaviour. Praise God for the many believers now in Iraq engaged in the thankless task of rebuilding that nation…. including your chaplain friend.]

From New Zealand:
> “I’m reading your WWs with great interest and a lot of head-nodding (i.e. assent, not the sleepy kind!) I would recommend “Empire Wilderness” by Robert D. Kaplan about the US. He observes and analyses it from the inside as he does many other countries in his other books.”

Tom Bloomer, one of my close YWAM colleagues, an American with Swiss nationality, wrote:
> “I’ve much appreciated your latest series, and I agree that the comparison of America’s current superpower status with Britain’s in the 19th century is a good one. However, I must disagree about the ‘root cause’ of terrorism being hopelessness.” [Ed Sherman, another YWAM colleague, had expressed the same sentiment earlier.]
“For one thing,” continued Tom, “the Saudi hijackers of 9/11 were not hopeless, but educated and capable of leading normal lives. This said, hopelessness is of course one of the prime characteristics of the 21st century, in developed nations as well as the rest of the world, and is indeed the ground of many ills.
“But the more important point is this: since terrorism is by definition murder, the root cause of it is sin! I am hearing more and more Christians, and even YWAMers, put the responsibility for terrorism on the way the West has treated Moslems. While Western nations will certainly be judged severely for the many injustices they have perpetrated, the choice to murder is an individual one, and no socio-economic factors justify it, ever. I think we are in danger of repeating Israel’s proverb in Ezekiel 18, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge’ in our justifying the murders committed by Moslems because of generations of corrupt rulers, economic exploitation, the Palestinian exile, etc. But as the Lord makes clear through the prophet in the rest of this chapter, He hates this denial of personal responsibility and holds each individual responsible to resist the sins of their fathers, renounce evil, and choose righteousness. I know that you don’t disagree with this principle, I just wanted to underline it.”

Thanks Tom (and Ed). Point taken. Still, I would suggest that when you’ve given up hope on normal discussion, persuasion, political channels to effect change, and resort to violent terrorism, you have gone a long way down the path towards hopelessness and despair.

Obviously what I have shared in this series does not necessarily reflect any official position of YWAM – as the footnote I have started to add to these WW’s states. In fact, YWAM has no ‘official’ position on these sort of topics. So how appropriate is it then to be speaking out as a YWAM leader through this channel? That’s a fair question that has been passed on, and my answer has been that there is no sphere of life that is not to be brought under the lordship of Christ – including politics and international relations. I am dealing with many topics in the WW on which YWAM has no official position. But I hope to provoke biblical thinking on such topics. I have shared my perspective over the past weeks that we are facing a new global situation and need to understand what is behind it. Globalisation itself is a subject affecting missions profoundly. The World Evangelical Alliance Missions Commission sponsored a congress on the subject in June. I attended the previous one in Iguassu in 1999, and the issue of relating to American influence constantly resurfaced in the catch-phrase, ‘dancing with elephants’. It’s a missions issue we can’t sidestep.

A senior leader of a global mission flattered me with the following response to my ‘Interdependence Day speech’, asking if he could send it on to his fellow American leaders:
“Jeff, your best bit of writing yet ! ! ! How can we get this to the W
hite House?” (!)

hers have drawn my attention to two other articles, both by Americans, expressing similar concerns. One appeared as a Christianity Today column, posted 07/02/03 by Philip Yancey entitled “Going it alone: we should take heed when much of the world says it distrusts us.”

The other article – by Dr David Young – fairly blew me away! A Mercy Ships colleague sent it to me suggesting I read it before writing part 5. ‘Fortunately’ I didn’t get to it until this week – as if I had read it earlier, you would have thought I had plagiarised his speech! He makes many of the very same points, and quotes the same Solzhenitsyn passage about the line separating good and evil passing through every human heart. He summarises the discrepancies between American self-perception and that of the rest of the world: “In short, the world does not see us the way we see ourselves.” And what other people think, he adds, sooner or later results in action. And to whom was he making these observations? The Senate Republican Planning Committee, on February 7 this year!

Dr Young served at the White House under Kissinger, when a young assistant named Cheney was ‘trying to take care of a guy we all called “Rummy”‘. Today Young is an Oxford-based consultant to international institutions like the G7, the EU, the UN and the IMF, as well as nations like China, Russia and India. His message is entitled: The Peril of the Dominant Culture and the Idea of America, and asks how America can avoid the Peril of the Dominant Culture and at the same time establish its legacy of very special “beliefs and values”.

Young says the flip side of globalisation is the “politics of despair”. In furthering the idea of America, he told the Planning Committee, America’s policy goal should be to change the “politics of despair” into the “politics of hope”.

Obviously a believer, Young talks of the need to factor in the spiritual dimension, and quotes both Frederick Nietzsche(!!) and St Paul on the subject of spiritual warfare.

You can read for yourself his interesting conclusions at:

OK, enough on this subject!

Next week, we’ll handle something safer – like what to do with the Harry Potter phenomenon that has flared up again with J.K.Rowlings’ latest book.

Till then,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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